Jackie Parry of Dianthus Dishes on the Rise of Women in the World of Guitar, New Music, and More
Fire-breathing six-stringer Jackie Parry is a shining example of the diverse swatch of players populating the guitar-driven side of heavy metal in the modern era.
Triumphantly positioned next to her twin sister Jessica Parry as the other half of progressive metal outfit Dianthus, Parry has taken the world by storm over the last year. But Parry isn’t only proving that the next generation of guitar is here; she’s further driving home the momentum women in the industry have gained in recent years.
In the past, the world of metal – especially guitar – was a proverbial boys club, leaving many young women locked out and standing in the cold. But in recent years, the script has thankfully flipped through the exploits of the likes of Nita Strauss, Nikki Stringfield, Lizzy Hale, and more. And it seems that Jackie Parry is vengefully roaring to action via her amp-driven exploits, cementing the status of axe-slinging women in the once male-dominated field.
To be sure, though, Parry’s roar via her Charvel rig can be heard far and wide. Moreover, her prowess on the fretboard is usually reserved for players twice her age. Still, the young shredding songstress stays humble in the wake of her virtuosity, consistently choosing to serve the song dutifully and, in turn, the rock and metal community.
With rumblings of new Dianthus music afoot, Jackie Parry beamed in with MetalSucks to recount her origins on the guitar, her creative process, the rise of women playing the guitar, and what’s next as she and her twin sister move forward.
What first inspired you to pick up the guitar?
When I was about 12 years old, I became curious about the guitar (electric guitar specifically). At the time, I only played classical piano and wanted to experiment with a different instrument. I always loved rock music and wanted to try it out. I remember fondly how I felt after my first guitar lesson too. I was thrilled to be learning songs for the first time I heard them on the radio. I knew right then and there that I wanted to pursue the instrument.
Can you recall your first guitar, how you obtained it, and if you still have it?
Yes! I still have my very first electric guitar, a dark blue Fender Stratocaster with a white pickguard. My mom gifted me this guitar when I was 14. I still play it every now and then, but it is more of a special memento now.
What was the first riff and solo you learned?
That’s easy! It was “Smoke on the Water” and “Iron Man,” of course! [Laughs]. But seriously, those intro riffs were the very first ones I learned on guitar, and they are still classics. Fast forward to when I got more into metal; the first heavy riff I learned was the intro to a song called “The Legacy” by Black Veil Brides. This song was the gateway for me to get deeper into the heavier genres.
One of the first solos I learned was also in a song by them called “Knives & Pens” (original version). It is pretty simple in structure but very melodic with the use of guitar harmonies. It’s one of those solos you can sing or hum along to, and I love that.
My process for learning riffs and solos consists of a combination of really slowing a song down and using a bit of interval ear training to really hit the accurate pitches.
What are five albums of bands that have shaped you thus far and why? How is their influence best reflected in your playing?
The top-five albums that have really influenced my guitar playing include Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance, The Poison by Bullet For My Valentine, Masks by Eyes Set to Kill, Set the World on Fire by Black Veil Brides, and This is the End of Control by Cherri Bomb. Each of these albums has influenced me in a unique way.
Not all of them are heavy metal. Actually, most of them are quite hard rock. But a good album, to me, doesn’t necessarily have to be heavy right away. If it moves me emotionally, I will draw a lot of inspiration from it.
Welcome to the Black Parade. in my opinion, is such a monumental rock album by My Chemical Romance. All the instrumentation in that record came together to create something much larger than life. I think it is so cool when a band has a large vision with their music… and I try to do that with my guitar playing.
Who most influenced your sound, and how is that best illustrated in your playing?
I think the guitarist that has had one of the greatest influences on me is Steve Vai. I just really love how eccentric and creative his melodies are with guitar, and I admire how he is not afraid to take risks with the music he creates. I always try to adapt to a similar frame of mind when writing guitar parts.
He is also a very humble person, and I think it is so great that he is always giving back what he has learned to the music community over the years. I have a few of his books, including his latest Vaideology. It is a great resource on music theory and a great book to reflect on and learn from.
Tell me about any original music you’re working on and the continued evolution of your songwriting approach.
At this moment, Dianthus is taking a slight turn in our sound, and we are excited to try some different things with new material in 2023! With each body of music we create, we always strive to sound different and change things up (it’s what keeps things fun and fresh for us too).
Our writing approach changes with each song. Sometimes, my twin, Jessica [Parry], will come up with a drum groove first, and I will come in with guitars. Other times it’s the opposite. However, most of the time, we start with the music first and then the vocals. It’s better for us that way since we need to play and sing the music at the same time live.
Images courtesy of Jackie Parry/Image credit: Jack Lue
What are some of the challenges in a band with your sister?
Being in a band with my twin sister, Jessica, is the greatest blessing! We are always together, so it is a breeze to work out ideas, and rehearsing together is never a problem. Whenever I need an opinion on something, she is always open and willing to help me (especially through the toughest of writer’s blocks).
As far as challenges, there really aren’t any I can think of! It’s all been smooth sailing being in a band with my sister. Of course, we have small disagreements from time to time, but we always work it out together.
Which songs and recordings that you’ve done so far mean the most to you, and why?
There are definitely some tracks that we’ve recorded that stand out to me as very special. Three songs come to mind, and they are all from our second record, Realms. The songs that mean the most to me from that album are “Realms,” “Nora’s Finding,” and “Secrets & Promises.” Each of these took me a lot to write and record (mentally and physically).
I had to look within myself to find the appropriate melodies that could emotionally move people. I didn’t want to overthink anything and instead wanted to be as honest as I could with every instrument. All three songs have very different sounds compared to one another but have equally left me with that same important takeaway: to be honest and open with my ideas without fearing any judgment.
How do you balance the want to craft quality songs with the desire to shred?
Some lead players will disagree with me on this, but I’ve never really been one to think there should be a guitar solo in every single song. Of course, there should definitely be leads that help move a song along. However, I think guitar solos are so special that they almost have to be placed in the perfect spot in a musical piece.
As I mentioned earlier, Dianthus likes to make each song sound different. Sometimes a song won’t have a solo, but it will have a heavy melodic breakdown or even both (a solo that will go into a breakdown). My sister and I always try to write with quality and will never release a song if we don’t feel it has fully been developed. With this process, balancing quality work with the desire to shred hasn’t been too difficult.
What guitars are you using these days?
For years, I have been playing Charvel Guitars. I own two from their now-discontinued “Desolation” line. One is gloss black, and the other is gloss red, both equipped with EMG pickups. They are truly solid guitars!
However, I have been playing and experimenting with headless guitars in recent months. My good friend, Ray Edwards, recently joined forces with Strandberg Guitars (based out of Sweden). He was so kind to have sent me some of their guitars to try, and I actually enjoy playing them! They are very ergonomic and light, and the tone is not compromised with the smaller guitar body.
He gifted me with the Boden NX 6 and inputted some rare purple EMG 81/85s (Thank you, Tommy, at EMG!) into it, and it’s the coolest-sounding thing! I also use Richter Straps on my guitars (a fine company based out of Germany). They make super comfy and high-quality leather guitar straps and more. Ever since I’ve been using them, I have not had any shoulder pain when playing. They are the best. Thank you, Lars Richter!
Images courtesy of Jackie Parry/Image credit: @marcdphotos
How about amps, pedals, and effects?
As far as amps, I recently acquired the Mesa Badlander Amp Head, and it sounds amazing. I pair it with my Marshall 1960 Lead Cabinet, which is the perfect combination. I have a very simple pedal board: Boss Chromatic Tuner, Dunlop Mini Volume Pedal, Boss Digital Delay (I believe it’s the original DD-3), ISP Deci-mate Noise Gate, and Fortin’ Grind’ Pedal by Fortin Amps.
The Fortin Pedal is really nice because it is a boost that works with any amp’s high-gain settings (adding more aggression to the amp). It also has a built-in channel switcher, which is super helpful live for when I still want to use the clean channel on the Badlander.
More young women than ever seem to be picking up the guitar. To what do you attribute that?
Yes, it’s so cool to see more young women picking up the guitar! I believe it’s all thanks to female rock trailblazers such as Joan Jett, Lita Ford, and Lzzy Hale. If it weren’t for those women making a mark in the music industry, the guitar community might still be a little daunting to young females wanting to pursue the instrument.
Do you feel the “boys club” mentality is a thing of the past?
I think the idea of guitar being a boys club is more or less a thing of the past because the community has changed so much. Actually, a lot of men I find are quite supportive of female guitar players and encourage them with the instrument.
However, there are also a handful of men out there that do have the mentality of it being a male-dominated business. I don’t let that affect me at all. And my sister and I try not to capitalize on the fact that we are female musicians because sometimes it does create a sense of superiority among men, which we don’t want.
Women and men are both completely worthy of playing the guitar. Each has unique approaches to the instrument that we can all learn from.
What are your most immediate goals, and how do you plan to make them a reality?
One of our biggest goals is to tour the U.K. We hear a huge melodic metal community is out there and see they have the coolest festivals. We have made friends with a few bands out there and hope to put something cool together in the near future.
What’s next for you in all lanes?
We are working on another music video for a song off of our recent album, Realms. It will hopefully be released soon. As always, we are continuing to write new music and expand our sound. Expect more shows coming in the new year as well!